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Postcards from Nainital

JAM reporter Monali Gaikwad leaves behind her story-deadline-story-deadline-story-deadline (ok you get the point) schedule and escapes to Nainital. But she did remember to drop us a line

Need a break from the deadly projects and assignments in college? Just pack your bags and head off to Nainital for that much-needed peace and quiet.

Situated in Uttarakhand, it is one of the most popular hill stations in India. The many lakes around town also make it one of the most beautiful ones. For the uninitiated, Nainital derives its name from its many taals (lakes) and a very dramatic mythological story that claims the eye of Goddess Parvati fell here.

How to get there
Nainital is closest from Delhi and the best way to get there is by road. The journey takes 7-8 hours. You can hire a car if you are feeling rich, or hop on to one of the buses run by Uttrakhand Roadways starting from ISBT Anand Vihar (Delhi).

There are very few trains that go to Nainital and the nearest station is Kathgodam, which is 35 km away from Nainital. Makes the whole exercise kinds fruitless.

The same goes for airlines. The “nearest” airport, at Pantnagar, is at least 2 hours away and the only airline flying here is Jagson Airlies from Delhi. Taxis will take you to Nainital for 250-400 bucks.

But whatever your mode of transport, the journey to Nainital is a nature lover’s delight. The air is mint fresh and the sights breathtaking.

Where to put up
After you reach Nainital, be prepared to be hounded by guides wanting to get you a place to sleep for the night. These guides are helpful, because it may be difficult to navigate your way through the narrow and steep streets of Nainital. During off-season you can get yourself a room for Rs 400-800 per night, which shoots up to Rs 1,500-4,000 during peak season. So, if you can add two and two, you’d have figured out by now that the best season is certainly not the peak season.

Pet puja
The food here is quite reasonable and yummy! Don’t forget to try the gol gappas and aaloo tikki on the roadsides eateries for just Rs 25.

What to do?
Once you get to Nainital you will just want to sit back and soak up the lovely weather for a while. The climate is wonderful! And once you are done vegetating, there’s a lot to see and do for everyone.

For the adventurous kinds, there are trekking trips and snow sports during winters. You can even do a jungle safari in an open jeep at the Jim Corbett National Park and visit the beautiful Jim Corbett Waterfalls. There are games galore set up en route to Sher-Ka-Danda Ridge, which is located at an altitude of 2,270 m. You can get here by the rope way and enjoy a spectacular view of the Himalayas. The place also boasts of go karting, dashing cars and shopping avenues.

If you want to do the normal touristy things, visit the zoo, cave gardens and see all the taals. You can even go boating in the many taals on self-peddled boats, rowing boats or Gondolas inspired by Venice, all for Rs 100 max. Nainital also has a tea plantation.

For those looking for a spiritual experience, the Naina Devi temple located in the main lake of Nainital, the Buddhist monasteries and cathedrals are a must do. But whether you are spiritual or not don’t miss the temple with over 2 lakh bells hung in it. You have to see it to believe it!

Make sure you hire a guide to get you around the city. If you are lucky, you might find a very enthusiastic one, who’ll take you to every place where the film Koi Mil Gaya was shot! I met a guide who took me to the spot where Hrithik played basketball, ran with Jaadu and rode a bicycle. Amazing information, really, considering that the guide really didn’t care about the fact that I had never seen that movie.

Shopping
Don’t forget to visit the Tibet market behind Naina Devi temple. You can pick up some really unique candles, which are a specialty of Nainital. You can even find some nice shawls and jackets between Rs 100-150. But be prepared to use all your bargaining prowess to get a good deal.

Vehicles are not allowed on the streets between 6 pm to 9 pm and you can take this opportunity to stroll around the markets peacefully.

Between the beauty of the place and the plethora of things to do and see you might never want to return to the grind. Chances are I won’t either!

Vital stats

Climate
Nainital probably has the most pleasant climate in the country with the maximum temperature reaching only up to 22º C in the summers and going sub-zero during winters.

Best time
Most of the year is off season for Nainital. The peak season is between May 1 and June 30. Rains are pretty unpredictable here, which add to the beauty of the climate. But if you have the taste for it, Nainital is equally pretty in the snow.

Damages
The prices of accommodation, food and horse rides double up during the peak season. The trip may turn out to be a little expensive and set you back by about Rs 5,000 per person. But the trip is worth every penny you spend, peak season or not.

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